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The VP Debate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of



Democrats have been stunned by the staying power of last week's debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The other day Obama did a taped interview for the Tom Joyner radio show. In it he said he had been "too polite" toward Romney in their debate but we were not likely to see that next time.


It seems like every cab in which I've ever ridden in Washington, DC had Diane Rehm on the radio. Since 1977 I've been working through the dial to find the "All Diane Rehm" station, but I've been unsuccessful.

The driver of the cab I was in Wednesday morning had the Tom Joyner program on and when I heard Obama, I asked him to turn it up.

At that "I was too polite" line, my cab driver started guffawing and said, "He wasn't too polite. He was sound asleep."

That's where we find ourselves for the only debate between the Vice Presidential candidates: Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan.

The moderator, ABC News' Martha Raddatz, is a long-time foreign affairs correspondent and the hearing in the U.S. House yesterday over the astonishing mishandling of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of our Ambassador, can't help but come up in the course of the discussion.

Unlike Obama and Romney, Biden and Ryan have at least a passing acquaintance with one another but Biden will have to guard against showing that particular superior attitude Senators reserve for Members of the House. Senators believe their most junior staffer outranks everyone but the Speaker of the House. The staffers think so, too; except for that Speaker of the House thing.

I think the bar is somewhat lower for Ryan than for Biden. He has to demonstrate a command of the subject matter when it comes to the budget and economic issues; but it is Biden who is the foreign affairs expert so Ryan's test in that area will be somewhat easier to pass.


Come to think of it, the bar is pretty low for Biden, too. All he's got to do is be better than Obama was. If he can't to that, they don't deserve to win.


Ok. Biden was better than Obama. But he absolutely failed the "disdain" test that I wrote about above.

The two-shots showed Biden laughing with incredulity at just about everything Ryan said.

I'm not an impartial observer, so I don't know how it played in the filing center in Danville, Kentucky, but it reeked of Al Gore sighing and rolling his eyes in his debate against George W Bush.

Biden was obviously schooled to rebut every sentence that came out of Ryan's mouth even if it meant mumbling counter arguments while Ryan was speaking and challenging every fact that Ryan put forth.

The two men redefined "in the weeds" for most of us. I have no idea how either team plans to save Medicare from bankruptcy even though I listened closely to them talk about that for the better part of ten minutes.

The first question of the night from Martha Radditz was: Wasn't the attack on Benghazi a "massive intelligence failure?"

Biden never answered that question other than to say - that when the White House described the attack as a result of the video they were going on what the intelligence community had told them.

I was yelling at the TV for Ryan to say, "when Bush believed the CIA over WMDs in Iraq, Obama called Bush a liar, does that make Obama a liar now?"


But, happily, I had to stop and give a speech.

I am now back from the speech and am glad that I could only watch one hour of the debate.

Both Biden and Ryan knew a lot. They should. They're senior members of the U.S. House and Senate.

Although I would give the nod to Ryan - because I'm rooting that way - let's say it was a tie. Let's also say we know how Obama is going to act toward Romney next week in the debate on Long Island.

He is going to be argumentative, dismissive, and rude, if that's what he thinks he needs to show he's the President and Romney isn't.

Romney will have to counter with being more precise and sharper in his answers giving Obama less of a target to aim at.

The net result is: The VP debate did nothing to change the arc of the campaign.


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